Naturalism, Functionalism and Chance: Not a Best Fit for the Humean

In Christian Loew, Siegfried Jaag & Michael Townsen Hicks (eds.), Humean Laws for Human Agents. Oxford: Oxford UP (2023)
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How should we give accounts of scientific modal relations? According to the Humean, we should do so by considering the role of such relations in our lives and scientific theorizing. For example, to give a Humean account of chance, we need to identity a non-modal relation that can play the ‘role’ of chance—typically that of guiding credences and scientifically explaining events. Defenders of Humean accounts claim to be uniquely well placed to meet this aim. Humean chances are objective, and so suitable for explaining. Humean chances reduce to patterns in actual events in a way that limits the possible divergence between relative frequencies and chances. So, they argue, Humean chances can uniquely be shown to satisfy chance−credence principles. I’ll argue that Humeans have no special advantage. When used in scientific contexts, Humean chances must be allowed to diverge from the relative frequencies. So, when considering the scientific question of whether agents who align their credences to the chances will do well, it is merely probable that they will. This scientific use of chance undercuts the Humean’s claimed advantage over their rivals. This undercutting also points to a deeper tension in Humeanism: Humeans must either give up the aim of recovering scientific practice, or live with a disunity between science and metaphysics. While a focus on function is laudable, the motivation for being Humean must come from elsewhere.



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Alison Sutton Fernandes
Trinity College, Dublin

References found in this work

The metaphysics within physics.Tim Maudlin - 2007 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Time and chance.David Z. Albert - 2000 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Humean Supervenience Debugged.David Lewis - 1994 - Mind 103 (412):473--490.
New Work For a Theory of Universals.David Lewis - 1983 - In D. H. Mellor & Alex Oliver (eds.), Properties. Oxford University Press.

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